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As we prepare for our big kick-off weekend for our 2014 Annual Catholic Appeal, I’m often asked, “Where does my money go? Why should I give?” These are great questions, and I want to help you make informed decisions about how you can best serve others this year. That might be through a donation to the Appeal. It might be by learning about one of the agencies we support through the Appeal, and volunteering there. Or your agency might learn more about our charitable mission, and become more closely involved with us.
So to answer the first question, of the approximately $2.5 million raised last year, nearly $350,000 went to grants to external agencies. The remainder of the money raised is allocated to diocesan programs, such as Seminarian education, supporting retired religious, our Catholic schools throughout the diocese, Catholic Communications, and Latino ministry.
As the Annual Catholic Appeal Manager, one of my favorite things is getting out into the community and discovering a new agency that is doing work that could be funded through the Annual Catholic Appeal. Here are the basic requirements:
- The agency performs one of the Corporal Works of Mercy (feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, visiting the sick)
- The agency is endorsed by a pastor or priest in the county in which they operate
- The agency, while not necessarily Catholic, abides by and follows Catholic teaching (does not contradict Catholic teaching)
- The agency is within the boundaries of the Diocese of Springfield (Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties)
Right now, we are able to fund agencies between the range of a few thousand dollars up to $30,000 and beyond, depending on the capacity of the agency to deliver programming. Here are the criteria I use when determining funding:
- What population is served (youth, elderly, families, unborn, etc.)?
- What other funding sources does the agency have access to?
- What is the current size of their budget?
So is your agency a potential match? Consider the following:
- Our “feelers” are always out for agencies that promote the Corporal Works of Mercy and whose mission aligns with the mission of the Appeal.
- Demonstration of need, purpose and population served are all things that we look for when deciding to invite an agency to submit a grant proposal
- Unique programs (Rick’s Place is a wonderful example) that fulfill a need that is not currently being fulfilled are always of interest to our funding group
Next week, I’ll discuss our goals for 2014 and what those goals mean for our region and the agencies serving it. Until then, I encourage you to read our 2013 Accountability Report and to visit and like our Facebook page.
Aesop once said that, ”After all is said and done, a lot more will have been said than done.” It would definitely seem that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is not content with letting the Church be guilty of just talking about the problems of the world; rather,he insists that we take the Gospel to heart and roll up our collective sleeves and attend to the needs of the suffering, the hungry, and the poor: “be open to others, especially to the poorest and neediest, to work to improve the world in which we live. Be men and women with others and for others, real champions in the service of others.”
As you may know, we are about to kick-off the 2014 Annual Catholic Appeal. Our theme this year – based on the call of the Gospel and inspired by Pope Francis’ urges for us to return to our Gospel roots – is Serve with Love. In addition to supporting the ministry of the diocese, did you know that the Annual Catholic Appeal directly supports local organizations that are responding to Pope Francis’ call to serve the poor, the underserved, and the neglected?
This year, we’re adding a social media component to our campaign to better share the stories of these organizations and the families they serve. Through our daily Facebook posts and tweets, you’ll not only be able to learn more about their important work, but you’ll be able to share how you choose to serve with love in your own way: we encourage you to share your comments on our Facebook page or to tweet how you are responding to Francis’ call – whether it’s “liking” an organization’s work, or volunteering your time at one of their events, or supporting the 2014 Annual Catholic Appeal – by using the hashtag #wmaservewithlove.
By Peggy Weber
Friday afternoons were pretty easy in the 4th Grade. After lunch we had art and then headed next door to church for Benediction. However, On Nov. 22, 1963 things were different. We were told to put away our art supplies right away and clear our desks. The whole school was rushed out of the building. The teachers were visibly upset. Something was wrong.
We soon learned that President Kennedy been shot.
There was no horsing around in church that afternoon. The mood was different. Some of the sisters were crying. All the students at Holy Name Grammar School in Springfield were on their knees trying to pray the first Catholic president back to health.
Since then I have learned that many other students were taken to church that fateful Friday. Catholic school children throughout the land were doing the only thing that can be done in face of tragedy and sorrow — they prayed.
I recall that somehow we were informed that the president had died and were sent home. I think we were let out early. You could do that back then. Kids went home for lunch. Entire classes were kept after school for talking too much.
I rushed home and was greeted at the door by my mother. One look at her face told me that she knew the sad news. She looked really, really sad. I began to cry and we hugged. This was followed by our usual afternoon ritual of a cup of tea — mine had lots of milk in it.
Friday afternoons also meant tap dancing class at Charmaine’s School of Dance. I told my mother I was too upset to go to class. She said I had to go anyway because you had to pay for the class whether you did or did not go. We didn’t waste money. I trudged down Alderman Street to White Street and shuffled and pointed — with very little enthusiasm.
That night — those were meatless Fridays back then — we did something very unusual. My dad set up a card table in the living room and we watched TV.
We never ate in front of a TV when I was little. I knew that night that things were really different.
In a way, this was the second death that had struck our family that year. In June our beloved Pope John XXIII had died. They were the special “Johns” in our world. However, this one hurt more. It was violent and tragic. It left two children without their dad. It left everyone wondering why.
The weekend was a blur as our family was glued to the old black and white set in our living room. Finally on Sunday, my mom told us to go out and play. We did. We were not out long when one of the seven kids from the house next door burst out of his front door. He was a few years older and had our attention as he said, “I just saw Lee Harvey Oswald get shot.”
We rushed back into our homes to learn more. The unreal weekend continued.
I remember black-rimmed prayer cards in church.
I remember the riderless horse.
And, of course, I remember the salute from young “John-John.”
I know the world changed that day — just as I watched it change for my children on September 11th.
But one thing has not changed. On the night of September 11th, our parish gathered for Mass. We went to our knees in the face of violence and tragedy — just as I had as a fourth grader 50 years ago.
Photos courtesy of Catholic News Service
By Don Clemmer
Editor’s Note: Don Clemmer is the assistant director of media relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington D.C. He wrote this blog for the memorial of Blessed John XXIII.
Pope John XXIII and Pope Francis hold the respective distinctions of ushering in the most significant reforms the Catholic Church had seen in a millennium and being the first Latin American and Jesuit pope. But both men are also witnesses to how Christian holiness permeates daily life in moments big and small and that it’s not just what a person does, but how he or she does it, that matters.
Sure, both men provide visions of The Big Picture. John XXIII gave his recipe for sustainable global peace in his final encyclicalPacem in Terris (1963). And Pope Francis has put in place with lightning speed his program of global solidarity and a Church that goes out to the margins to serve.
But Francis has also focused much of his preaching and teaching energy — exemplified by his daily Mass homilies especially — on the “small things,” behaviors of everyday life like gossip, laziness and cynicism. These are not lofty theological concerns, but pitfalls of human behavior that apply to everyone. And he doesn’t criticize them lightly. Often the devil gets dragged into it. It’s as if the last thing Pope Francis wants is a Church that “believes correctly” but is populated by otherwise miserable people.
While this may sound like “papal micromanaging” to some, it’s more like a cheat sheet for the Christian life. Yes, you know the 10 Commandments and the Catechism, but just in case there was any doubt, the end result should look like this…
John XXIII had his rules for dealing with the small stuff too. His famous managerial maxim (recently quoted by Pope Francis in his interview with the world’s major Jesuit journals) was “See everything. Overlook a great deal. Correct a little.” His guide to living together in harmony (attributed to St. Augustine) had a similar spirit: “In essentials, unity. In doubtful matters, liberty. In all things, charity.”
Pope John’s leadership style was on full display at the Council. He didn’t participate, wishing to promote freer discussion among the bishops, but watched the proceedings from his apartment on closed circuit television. However, when the curia proposed a highly unpopular draft for the document on divine revelation and the bishops did not have quite enough votes to reject it outright, Pope John, to the Council fathers’ surprise, intervened and threw out the draft. He didn’t see the point in such an unpopular schema taking up so much of the Council’s time and energy. See everything. Overlook a great deal. Correct a little.
Pope Francis exercised a similar sense of discernment and freedom in the act of moving ahead Pope John’s canonization without the required second miracle. Look at the witness of his life! The world has already proclaimed him a saint! This system was meant to guide us, not hinder us. Pope Francis seems to be saying. And he is, after all, the pope.
From the model of John XXIII to the current admonitions of Pope Francis, Catholics everywhere can learn from these men how to discern what is truly important in matters large and small and learn follow their lead in in exemplifying the key to a Christian witness: “See how they love another.” Both men extended that love, in word and deed, to the entire world.
By Lauren Dulude ’14
Holyoke Catholic High School
Editor’s note: Lauren Dulude was one on five Holyoke Catholic High School students who traveled to Africa in July, the following is her reflection about that visit.
After willingly going to Africa for three weeks, I can boldly say that it was the absolute best experience of my life. Not only did I learn a lot about Tanzanian people and their culture, but I also learned some things about myself in the process. I was ready and anxious to begin our mission after my group spent the first week studying in the Makoko Language School. I had no idea what God had in store for me. Every day I experienced something new and exciting. I have so many stories and memories, so hopefully I can share small and meaningful parts with you.
First of all, I should begin by letting you know that it was not easy for my family to decide to let me go to Africa. (See her mom’s letter below.) Despite the majority of people that would tell me that it is too dangerous, I somehow always had the feeling that everything would work out. I never got discouraged. Most of the time people looked at me with utter confusion, told me that I couldn’t go, or made a rude comment about Africa. Although it was hurtful, I ignored them. I thought that no matter what they would do, it was my decision, and I knew that it was the right one. I was determined to go to Africa. I know that God helped me through that time and for some reason I had to go.
In my last letter on: Iobserve I wrote about the overall character of the people and the surroundings of the Makoko Language School. Even though both the school and the House of Compassion are not in the bustling town, they are an hour apart from each other. Every day we left the school at 8:00 on our private buses which we used for our safari vehicles. On the way to the House of Compassion everyone stared at us from outside the vehicle. This was the first day. During the next few days more and more people began waving to us as we passed by them. I will never forget the kids chasing after our van, smiling, and waving.
My main focus throughout the day was the kindergarten class. Only six out of about thirty kindergarteners lived at the House of Compassion. The others walked back home before lunch. During the mornings I worked in the kindergarten with three other Holyoke Catholic students. With a sort of wonder in her eyes, the teacher said to us: “We want to learn something from America.” The children knew minimal English, but the younger children surprisingly knew more than the older kids. We taught the kindergarteners songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, and “Old MacDonald.” The kids also loved learning the chicken dance.
After morning class the kids would all put their shoes on and lead us by hand to the church to pray. The teacher did not come with us and did not have any worries. The children were quiet and respectful in church where they said a prayer together in the pews and quietly left the church. I reviewed with five of the six kids that lived at the House of Compassion after lunch. The kids were so happy and obedient in class. There were a few days that one child would get the occasional case of malaria and sleep during class. In the kindergarten classroom they only have a mat on a cement floor, the teacher’s desk, a chalkboard, and a couple lawn chairs. The teacher had only one box of school supplies for the whole class.
Three other mission trip students and I spent the weekend tutoring a few House of Compassion kids in English. The seventh graders that we tutored went to the community school. Although they had English class in school, they basically only knew how to say hello. Their teacher must not have known much English at all because the children were confused. The seventh grade had been preparing for an English test that they were to take in two weeks. They would never go to school again if they failed their test, which meant that they will probably not be able to find that great of a job. It was extremely sad to know that just because their education system is weak, the kids will be the ones to suffer. When we tutored them we could tell that they were so eager to learn. They wrote down everything we said and worked for hours straight.
During Mass the voices of all of the people were outstanding. The songs are led by the older seventh graders. Their voices brought tears to my eyes. Mass was so powerful in Tanzania. The people truly came alive in church. There were so many people at the House of Compassion that were mentally disabled and could not communicate well. In church, those people were singing and dancing. During peace everybody walked around the church giving peace to one another. We brought smiles to people’s faces and they returned the favor.
Every day after Church we played with jump ropes and soccer balls. The adults and children loved to play. They figured out how to do double Dutch and they would always try to beat their record. When we collected the jump ropes at the end of each day they gladly passed them over which surprised me. As far as I know, all of the children at the House of Compassion are orphans. The most beautiful thing was to laugh and smile alongside the children. They stole my heart.
For the entire time we were at the House of Compassion I noticed that every child seemed to have about three different outfits. In the room that the adults shared they really only had a bed, a mosquito net, and maybe a box of belongings. Despite the conditions in which these people live in, they still enjoy life. They live simply, but it is beautiful. They are not dependent on material goods. Everybody at the House of Compassion makes up one big family. The abundant love, hope, and acceptance at the House of Compassion can be felt in multitudes and makes up the true spirit of the Tanzanian people whom I will remember forever.
The following is a letter from Lauren’s mother, Jodi Dulude, and their reaction to their daughter’s life-changing trip.
It was a hard decision to let our daughter go to Africa. At first we were hesitant in allowing her to go on the trip. We were also blown away that Lauren, would consider going to a third world country. She has always been afraid of all flying or crawling critters. There must have been a more powerful reason why she was being pulled to go on a 21 day mission trip to Tanzania. We came to the decision that it was something we had to let her experience. The conflicts and safety that go on in other countries was extremely frightening. So many questions needed to be answered. Many meetings were held to prepare us with the day to day activities, Lauren would experience. Her entire stay was at the Makoko Language School, it was comforting to be able to communicate, either by email, face time, or skype. One of our conversations on skype Lauren said, “can we just hang up, I’d like to go have fun, I only have four more days here”. Whether that was to be with the four other students she had become close to, write in her journal, or prepare for the next day she wanted to be there 100% of the time. Looking back at our decision and knowing it was the right one is a blessing. The people she met and grew close to in a short amount of time will always be a part of her. We have heard many stories of the children and people she met at the House of Compassion in Musoma, where the mission work took place. Lauren returned safely with an extraordinary experience she will never forget in a life time. She also has expressed an interest in returning to Musoma, Tanzania at some point in the near future. The next time will be an easier decision to make.
In 1952 a gallon of gas was just 20 cents. A loaf of bread was 16 cents and a postage stamp was only three cents. Of course, the average income was only $3515 so these prices are relative.
However, a group of people who can remember all of those prices assembled at the Fort Restaurant in Springfield a while back for their 60th reunion.
The Class of 1952 from Classical High School in Springfield met to reminisce about their high school days.
Pauline Fitzgerald of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Springfield sent along the information.
Classmates came from Florida, Georgia, Baltimore, Md. and Cape Cod. The event was arranged by Ann Tyminski from Baltimore and the photo was taken by Fred Krug the same photographer who took the 50th Class Reunion photo.
Those attending were: Fran Smith Levine, Ruth Cohen Broverman, Alan Broverman, Rose Zucco Davis, Shirley Cote Colapietro, Judith Catron McRae, Ann Lattinville Tyminski, Carl Mendola, Barbara Maier Krampitz, Phyllis Kazin, Bart Kazin and Robert Picknelly.
By Kaitlyn Swierzewski
As a senior at Holyoke Catholic High School, I was required to do a two week “Senior Seminar” or internship before graduation. Because of an interest in communications as well as in film, I thought Catholic Communications would be a great place to do my internship.
Now that I have finished my internship, I can say I am so glad I chose to do it here. Everyone is so nice and it is like a family. I cannot express in words how much I enjoyed my internship or how grateful I am for the experience I got. When most people think of internships they think of grabbing coffee, making copies, and not getting paid.
But that is not even close to the experience I got with my senior seminar. I was given a story to report on and had a task to do every day with it. I learned so much and had a lot of fun. Oh, and I also got to be on TV which is pretty cool.
Here’s a behind the scenes look at my two weeks at Catholic Communications.
Upon arriving on the first day of my Senior Seminar, I learned the basics of logging with my mentor, Peggy Weber, who was working on a story. Logging is when one chooses the video clips to be featured in the story. Although Peggy is not a fan of logging, I enjoyed it.
However, my first day was not all work, nor would the two week experience lack any fun moments. Here I am with Sharon Roulier’s daughter, Stephanie, during a tour of the Dr. Seuss sculptures in downtown Springfield.
The second day I went on location in Westfield to report on a talk given by Brother Mickey McGrath. I really enjoyed hearing Brother Mickey speak and seeing some of his beautiful artwork. Not only did I get to interview people but I even got to perform a stand-up in front of the camera. It was fun, but pretty difficult. It definitely reminded me that I like working behind the scenes more.
I also got to write an article for the iObserve website. Here I am with Rebecca Drake who edits and puts stories on the website. (You can read my story here: http://www.iobserve.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=2545&cntnt01returnid=66
I got to sit in on an editorial meeting which was really interesting. During the meeting, everyone talked about different ideas for upcoming stories. Here is the whole Catholic Communications team.
There were also these delicious peanut butter cup brownie bars at the meeting. (Courtesy of Bill’s wife!) Yum!
I loved watching Bill Pacocha, the chief videographer and video editor at Catholic Communications, work in the edit suite.
I got to write my own script and then do the voiceover work which was really cool. It is part of a story that is scheduled to air on June 22 on Real to Reel on WWLP-TV 22 at 7 p.m.
Barbie Bagley, who handles graphics and the diocesan web site, and Sharon Roulier, the host of Real to Reel, are hard at work here.
Here I am discussing my internship with Mark Dupont, director of Catholic Communications and diocesan spokesperson.
I got to attend the Chalice of Salvation Mass taping during my internship. It was a crazy day because we were taping two Masses, but I got to sit in the control room and wear a headset which was really cool! I loved watching how everything came together.
Through my internship, I was able to attend the Ordination Mass on June 1 where five new priests were ordained to the diocese. I had never been to an ordination Mass before but I truly enjoyed being a part of such a special event. I was responsible for the social media; so, I would take photos and then go back to the control room to upload them to Facebook. It was basically online reporting and was actually fun.
Here is a behind the scenes look of the Ordination taping.
June 1 was not just the day of the Ordination, but it was also the Bishop’s 50 year Jubilee! Here he is cutting his cake.
I am so happy with my internship at Catholic Communications. I can truthfully say I had the best two weeks and wish they didn’t have to end!
By Eleanor Harte
A small group of college students stands in a circle around a pile of lumber, fitting construction helmets on their heads and pulling on work gloves as they listen to a man holding a saw give instructions. A few of the students shiver as a cold wind rips through the group, but they continue to listen intently. As the man finishes talking, they break apart and begin to pick up tools: a drill, a hammer, a ladder. They get to work, and suddenly it’s hard to hear anything over the roar of the saw and the sound of nails being hammered into wood.
The students are in eastern Kentucky, spending their spring break repairing homes and building new ones for families in need. A group of 15 UMass Amherst students in the Newman Students Association chose to go on the alternative spring break trip last month. Led by Fr. Jon Reardon, they drove to Kentucky over the span of two days – they stopped in Pittsburgh overnight.
Lindsey Russo said she was inspired to participate in alternative spring break because of her history with community service. “I went on a trip to Neon, Kentucky in high school and I really liked it,” Russo said enthusiastically. “It was the best experience I had in high school. I went to Catholic school and I felt it was the best way to live out my faith in action. Alternative spring break has allowed me to discover the true meaning of Christ in my daily life.”
The group worked with a nondenominational Christian organization, the Christian Appalachian Project, which provides physical, spiritual, and emotional support to people in need living in Appalachia. They participated in CAP’s alternative spring break program, Workfest 2013, which provides students with an alternative spring break program and at the same time allows CAP to finish projects on a much quicker schedule than they would be able to do with their regular long-term volunteers.
Russo’s team built a porch and added a bedroom onto a house for a man awaiting a heart transplant, even braving a thunderstorm one afternoon to continue the work. “Working in tough conditions showed me how much we rely on God and each other. Material things start to lose their value.”
Students worked in teams with students from other schools, building porches, additions to houses, and repairing roofs. Mireille O’Connor was on a team that added siding and outside insulation to the home of an older couple who had built their home over 30 years ago, but now found themselves with a leaky roof and a home that was cold in the winter.
“The family’s reactions were really touching. The couple’s children and grandchildren were so thankful that we were helping them,” O’Connor said, smiling as she described the family, who she grew to really care for over the week. “One of the best parts was when the family hugged us and how they really cared for us. They cooked us chili hot dogs and vegetable pizza, macaroni salad, even butterscotch cake and cupcakes. They were so nice. I didn’t want to leave them. I wish we could be there to see the end of the project.”
The project should be finished in the next few months. Even though she won’t be there to help finish the project in person, O’Connor is thankful she got the chance to work on it. “I had never done a service trip before and I always wanted to do one because you get to see firsthand the reactions of the families because they’re there. The other type of volunteer work I usually do is fundraising for things, and I never really get to see what the hard work is going toward.”
Alec Bergweiler went on the trip because his friend had a good experience on a similar trip with the NSA last year. “I wanted something else to do for spring break other than sitting at home doing homework,” said Bergweiler. He worked on the home of an older couple plagued with medical problems – first, the husband had three heart attacks, and then the wife was diagnosed with leukemia. “She’s in remission now, but their medical bills were really high,” Bergweiler said, which caused the couple to spend the money they planned to use for home repairs on medical treatment. CAP stepped in to help the family with the repairs.
O’Connor calls the trip her best UMass memory. “I think learning to work together with all different types of people throughout the trip and getting to know them while helping the family at the same time was the best part.” The diversity of the volunteers was an aspect she appreciated as well. “It was really cool how all the helpers came from different walks of life but had the same common goal of wanting to help the family and really worked together to achieve that.”
Bergweiler did things in Kentucky that he had never done before. “I got up on the roof, knocked down a chimney with crowbars, added siding to the house, and put a metal roof over the existing shingle roof.
Seeing eastern Kentucky was also a highlight for Bergweiler. “We went to the original KFC restaurant, and Cumberland Falls, which was cool because I don’t see waterfalls very often.” Cumberland Falls is known as the “Niagara of the South,” and is located close to the camp where the group stayed.
“My favorite part was how friendly the people we were helping were. They were very down to earth, and getting to know them was nice. The husband talked to me about how he was a firefighter and flew planes – he had a really full and interesting life.” Students often talked to the homeowners while working and on lunch breaks. They shared stories of faith and life at college and learned about life in Kentucky.
Bergweiler says he would definitely go on a similar trip again. “We improved the homeowners’ lives through direct impact, which was great.”
Lynn Pham found out about the trip through a friend. “It was a great bonding experience. I made a lot of new friends from UMass, who I never would have met otherwise. One of my favorite parts was playing games, like Taboo, a group word game, kind of like charades where people shout things out – it was a lot of fun.”
Pham has participated in a number of service projects before, but none made as big of an impact on her as Workfest 2013. “I’ve done food pantries, given donations, and worked at nursing homes. But I wanted to see my actual volunteer time being given to needy people as well as see the impact that I was making.”
By Elaine Y. Olive
Editor’s note: Elaine, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Springfield, wrote this poem as a Thank You to the staff a the Mont Marie Health Care Center in Holyoke. She wanted to show her appreciation “for all the wonderful care they have given and still continue to give” to her mother, Bertha R. Paquet, age 98. Bertha has been a resident there since August, 2011. Elaine also taught at the former Sacred Heart School for 16 years.
Elaine notes: “I wrote it especially for the Mont Marie staff, but I also was thinking of all the unsung caregivers in our skilled nursing care facilities and hospitals.”
Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy, Holy, Holy
are crooked smiles
on vacant faces,
and toothless grins,
as one drifts
between this world
and the next.
Holy, Holy, Holy
are voices who speak
but make no sense,
who repeat, “So, what’s
new with you?” all day,
who smile at everyone
not knowing anyone.
Holy, Holy, Holy
are aluminum walkers
with bright tennis ball
feet allowing frail guides
an easier walk
down the hall and back,
down the hall and back.
Holy, Holy, Holy
are customized wheelchairs
providing comfort and
support to atrophied
limbs and bodies
unable to right themselves.
Holy, Holy, Holy
are chair alarms
signaling an unsafe move
of one attached,
call bells loudly ringing
requesting help to care
for once private needs,
televisions blaring for
ears no longer able to hear.
Holy, Holy, Holy
are lamb’s wool
- Adaptive eating utensils
like scoop bowls,
- bibs, called clothes
- pureed food
- hearing aid batteries
- portable oxygen tanks
- stool softeners
Holy, Holy, Holy
are wandering souls
once pillars of society
many now forgotten
within this home
Blessed are you, Angels
of Mercy, who care for
their most basic needs,
for protecting them,
for supporting them,
for loving them as your won.
Blessed all hallowed souls
within these sacred walls and
halls, staff, caregivers and
Holy Holy, Holy are you.
By Peggy Weber
When I told people I was journeying to Camden, New Jersey to interview Salesian Brother Mickey McGrath, the response was not a positive one.
Oh, people are impressed with the beautiful art work of Brother Mickey and they are excited that he will be visiting our diocese on May 21 and 22. However, most people said something to the effect, “Camden! Do you know that city is the murder capital of America?”
Honestly, I didn’t know much about Camden. To me it was a sign on the New Jersey Turnpike that told me I was closer to Delaware. It was a landmark on the many trips I made to Washington, D. C. when my daughter lived there.
My son said he mentioned my trip to someone from New Jersey and that person said, “Is your mother bringing a body guard for the interview?”
I mentioned all of this to Brother Mickey when we arrived at the downtown Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The big iron gates that protect the rectory certainly indicated that Camden might be living up to its reputation. The vacant convent and people sleeping on doorsteps also clued us into the state of things. And the lack of activity in the downtown area certainly showed us that Camden has difficulties.
Sure the aquarium along the riverfront looked busy. However, as one gazed across the Delaware River to Philadelphia it looked like the Emerald City of Oz in comparison to poor Camden.
“Camden is a very seriously challenged city. It had the highest murder rate in the country last year. And it is among the top five of poorest cities int he country, “said Brother Mickey from his Bee Still Studio.
Recent census figures show that the population had continued to decline to 77,000. About 52 percent of those live in poverty. The per capita income for Camden was $9,815 compared to the national average of $21,587.
You get the idea.
One could be depressed. However, I left Camden with great feelings of energy, inspiration and hope!
Well, there is Sacred Heart Parish in Camden. Under the leadership of Msgr. Michael Doyle, this parish provides a Catholic School, many creative programs and a voice for the voiceless.
Brother Mickey told me that he came to Camden because Msgr. Michael invited him and because they both believe “that beauty heals and everyone is attracted to beauty!
And, of course, there is Brother Mickey — creating great art work in a row house near the parish.
“My ministry as an artist is to create beauty and to help others see beauty, especially in the unexpected places,” he said.
He recently exhibited paintings of Camden that show this beauty — even in abandoned buildings.
And he wants people to know there is a heart to Camden.
“It’s not just all murder and mayhem. It’s families trying to make a go of it!”
Another positive sign in Camden is Hope works, founded by Jesuit Father Jeff Puthoff to provide technical skills to Camden’s youth.
Now I am not planning my summer vacation in Camden but I learned on a gray, overcast Saturday that there is a lot of good there and I am glad I went.
Follow Peggy Weber on Twitter @spunfromtheweb.